Ammon McNeely survives BASE jumping accident

10/29/13 – Ammon McNeely, a well-known aid climber and experienced BASE jumper who has history of trouble with law enforcement for jumping in national parks, was seriously injured in Moab, Utah, after his chute didn’t open properly and he slammed into a cliff face. McNeely had just had the brake line in his rig repaired and was going to try a new exit (where a jumper leaps from) with Andy Lewis and some friends when the accident occurred. With more than 1,000 jumps under his belt, McNeely is an accomplished and competent BASE jumper who understands the risks involved.

McNeely describes the ordeal on SuperTopo:

“We were with one other jumper who was new, and I voted that Andy goes first, the two new guys go in the middle, and I go last. They had perfect exits, great openings with no wind. I jumped, probably took a tad longer delay than I should have, being it was a new exit with new brake lines, and immediately had a 180-degree opening. [Editor’s Note: This is a highly feared situation for a BASE jumper, where the chute opens facing the cliff, giving the jumper little to no time to steer away from it.] I struck the cliff with my left foot and continued rag dolling down the cliff where I finally came to rest on a sloping ledge. I knew I was banged up, but to my utter surprise my foot was flipped on its side looking very similar to a Nalgene bottle with just a sliver of skin keeping it on.”

McNeely used part of his BASE rig to create a tourniquet on his leg, which was “squirting everywhere.” He called to his friends that he needed a helicopter rescue because he might bleed out. His friend Dave, who is an EMT, Brent, Andy, and some Moab locals reached him on the ledge about 45 minutes later where they drilled a three-bolt anchor and fixed lines before search and rescue arrived. McNeely credits this fast action and quick-thinking for saving his life. He had lost three pints of blood by the time the helicopter delivered him to the hospital.

“I was absolutely prepared to wake up the next morning, minus a foot,” he says in the SuperTopo thread. “I joked about going full pirate mode with a peg leg, but knew it could be a reality and was very said about it. Somehow, they saved it.” McNeely is not completely past the possibility of losing his foot and leg, as there’s still a threat of infection, but he is alive.

McNeely sums it up poignantly, “So, the question is; Do we stand up and take the risks and have a blast enjoying our passions? Or, do we hide in the shadows, being afraid of what might happen if we are so bold to follow our dreams?”